Category Archives: Hosting - Page 2

When Was The Last Time You Checked For Broken Site Links?

When was the last time you checked for broken site links?

For me, it has been years.

I don’t really deleted much content (personally or professionally) so I assume everything is fine. Well, related to an issue I was troubleshooting last time, I stumbled upon a dead link. Bummer. I figured if there was one, there might be more. So I took the top search result I found related to site link checkers and went over to www.brokenlinkcheck.com. They have a nice – FREE – option to crawl a site and report any broken links found.

Guess what -? I had 117 broken links on the site! I had no idea and never would have guessed there were that many. Quite a few of them were external links that I’ve referenced in different articles in the past (some of these articles QUITE old [I'm talking 10+ years old]).

Because, as noted above, I don’t remove much content, there were a lot of old posts – still valid and useful in their content – that referenced other sources that just didn’t exist anymore, or the pages were moved.

There were also a number of internal links that were broken – due to renaming or relocating of content.

So, now I’m in clean-up mode. I’ve corrected 47 of the broken link issues and will continue to work through the list over the next few days.

Perhaps you should run a scan on your own site and check for broken links? You might be surprised.

OrcsWeb Cloud Servers Compared to CloudServers.com

MeInRedJacketI’m running two primary brands now – still one company, ORCS Web, Inc., but two main brands… www.orcsweb.com (high-touch managed hosting) and www.cloudservers.com (IaaS unmanaged cloud servers).

Both brands sell cloud servers. Both brands have both email and phone support.

CloudServers.com Windows servers start at $34/month. OrcsWeb Windows cloud servers start at $99/month. BUT, when you go through and configure both apples-to-apples, the OrcsWeb server is only about 10% higher priced. And there are additional services included, and differences, that justify that difference in price:

  • Every OrcsWeb server has uptime monitoring that pages the support team 24×7 and they will respond to address any issue that arises – or contact the client as needed – even with the minimum level of managed services that are included in the base rate. CloudServers.com clients are responsible for configuring their own monitoring and responding to any issues specific to their server (not architectural).
  • OrcsWeb cloud servers are members of the OrcsWeb domain – allowing the support team to access the server to assist customers with any troubleshooting, performance analysis, or problem solving. CloudServers.com servers are not joined with any domain and the support staff has no direct administrative access to the systems.
  • Everyone OrcsWeb cloud server sits behind redundant high-powered physical firewalls that not only block all but primary ports, but also provides intrusion prevention services. Every CloudServers.com cloud server comes with its own virtual firewall. This provides a great additional layer of security but doesn’t have the advanced features of the OrcsWeb firewall solution.
  • OrcsWeb cloud servers are powered by VMware’s enterprise class (and license level) product solutions that are feature-rich and targeted toward a more enterprise level project and customer. CloudServers.com leverages CentOS, KVM, and a variety of different products for its cloud server architecture.

So which is best? It really all depends on your needs. If you want Linux, then CloudServers.com is the only choice today – OrcsWeb may start supporting Linux soon but it doesn’t currently. If you want an extension of your IT team to help with crafting solutions and assisting with any issues that might come up, OrcsWeb is best for you. If you self-administer your servers and just want cost-effective, yet still full-featured and fast-performing cloud servers, then CloudServers.com is best for you.

Hope this help clear up any confusion. If you are looking for cloud server hosting, be sure to check out whichever brand best matches your needs. Feel free to email and/or call in and speak with someone about either solution.

Happy hosting

“New” Windows and Linux Cloud Server Hosting

We have a “new” venture named CloudServers.com. I say “new” because the brand, site, and technology are brand-new (about a week old as-of this writing). While it is new, it is built on 17 years of hosting experience, and about five years of specifically cloud hosting experience.

CloudServers.com was created by ORCS Web, Inc (OrcsWeb corporate) to satisfy a need in the marketplace by providing a simple, secure, and affordable cloud server hosting option. Additionally we’ll be building out a rich selection of features and managed services, all at very reasonable pricing.

Is there a need for “simple” cloud servers? I’ve use Amazon EC2, Azure, and probably a dozen other solutions. If you’ve tried them yourself you probably know that they aren’t exactly user-friendly. Some parts may be, but other parts are overly complex.

CloudServers.com offers both Linux cloud servers and Windows cloud servers, and has a wide (and growing) selection of OS templates, from Windows Server 2003, 2008, and 2012 – to CentOS, RHEL, Ubuntu, Fedora, and other Linux distros.

Every cloud server comes with its own firewall – one that doesn’t reside as part of the cloud server OS, sits in front of the cloud server, and it super-easy to manage. Turn it on and set your rules. No crazy random IP issues, or port-mapping, or anything else. Just set it, configure it, and roll. Of course you still have your on-cloud security (like Windows Firewall or IPTables for Linux) too! You can never have too much security! :)

The cloud servers also include a super-simple backup option. Just $5/month covers over 90% of user backup storage requirements. The backups can be run on-demand or set to run every day and keep a day’s retention – automatically rotating so it doesn’t consume too much space and give you a surprise bill.

Oh, speaking of surprise bills, the pricing at CloudServers.com includes a reasonable amount of persistent storage (not ephemeral like EC2 or charged extra like Azure). It also includes free inbound data transfers, 20 GB of outbound transfers, a fixed static IPv4 address, and 24×7 support.

Yeah, that’s right, 24×7 support. The phone number is posted right there on every page of the website. There is no hiding like some cloud hosts that push their users to ticket-only or forum-only, nor are there tens of thousands of dollars in additional fees for 20-minute support response times -> it’s included with every hosting plan.

Hosting plans are pro-rated daily, so you can signup and pay for the remainder of the month, and if you ever spin down a cloud server you get credited for any amount prepaid but not used.

Check out the website for more information. Feel free to hit me up directly with any questions too.

Happy hosting!

DevOps. What does it mean?

MeInRedJacketWhat does DevOps mean?
Like many terms, there are a variety of slightly different (in some cases vastly different) definitions. The current definition per Wikipedia seems pretty good:

DevOps is a software development method that stresses communication, collaboration and integration between software developers and information technology (IT) professionals. DevOps is a response to the interdependence of software development and IT operations. It aims to help an organization rapidly produce software products and services.” – Wikipedia

There has always been an important relationship between the people who develop applications, and the people who manage the servers where these applications live long-term. It hasn’t always been a positive relationship, but there is a relationship nonetheless.

What concern does this movement address?
Not everything fits into a generic generalization, but the contention historically relates to:

1)      Developers love to be nimble and make changes (bug fixes, updates, etc.) very quickly as they are ready. This is not a bad thing – especially if your business is dependent on the success of a particular application. A developer makes a change on their development machine, runs through some tests, and wants to push these updates to the production servers… where the contention arises…

2)      Operations people (think server, storage, security, and network administrators) are responsible for the 24x7x365 monitoring, operation, and support of the organization’s IT systems. These people thrive on consistency and plans. To do their jobs well they need to know the operating system, how it was configured, what changes were made, what changes are planned, how will those changes impact the running systems? Will there be performance impacting changes? Will changes push capacity thresholds? Will the changes impact the stability?

See the potential issue there? I can’t count how many times I’ve heard from a developer “but it works fine on my machine” after deploying code and either it doesn’t work as expected or it creates operational support challenges. It is very likely that the development environment isn’t as secure as the production systems. It’s also fairly common for a developer to install an update – perhaps the latest version of some development framework – and assume that it is either already on the server or that installing it there won’t be an issue.

So what’s the solution? What is DevOps?
The solution is actually rather simple in concept (but not always easy to get people to follow). A main ingredient needs to be communication. Operations people need to communicate the environment, its constraints, generalized reasons for certain “restrictions” (permissions, changes, etc.). Developers need to communicate what they’re planning, what dependencies exist, what changes made need to be made to the systems, and generalized reasons justifying the changes.

Another key ingredient needs to be education. It’s fine to communicate things, but both departments need to understand what the other is doing and why. It will make the communication part easier, and will help both departments appreciate the reasons for certain guidelines.

DevOps in hosted world
Addressing the DevOps topic is often a easier in a corporate enterprise environment. Communication not working? Let’s get the IT Director involved and they’ll referee to straighten things out. There are a lot of hosting companies that either hide from this type of interaction or don’t have the experience and expertise to deal with it. The support teams may know operating systems but not know a model view from a case statement from a dynamic query (whatever – you know what I mean). This increases the challenge level but definitely does not rule out successful DevOps implementation. It just takes a bit more work up-front before engaging with a hosting company.

First, successful DevOps interaction with a site or server host is going to require managed hosting. In an unmanaged situation the client is generally on their own. Super-cheap hosting models are generally unmanaged – it costs money to maintain quality, experienced, and educated operations people, and make them available as-needed.

Second, you’ll want a host that doesn’t hide. Does the host respond quickly to email tickets? Do they provide telephone access not only for critical issues, but for talking about plans and changes and working proactively through upcoming deployments?

Third, you’ll want a host with knowledge and experience. Do they have developers on staff that work in the same development stack that you do? Are those people available to help out if needed? Sometimes development topics can be extremely technical and it might help to have a developer-to-developer interaction. Do the support people have some basic development knowledge? If you explain to them that your code is doing X, Y, and Z – do they get it?

Lastly, you’ll want a host who is proactive. Communication should flow both directions – not just from the customer’s developers to the host – but the host should also proactively review the systems and communicate and trends being noticed. Patching and change schedules should be communicated and coordinated. Operations people should make themselves available during deployments to assist and closely monitor for any issues. Scheduling a planning meeting to discuss ideas, plans, and suggestions (from both sides) shouldn’t be a hassle.

Do any hosts really operate at this level?
Yes, some do. Definitely not all of them though – in fact, in a world with thousands of “hosts” available, a small percentage provide this level of quality interaction.

If you don’t already know, OrcsWeb was founded 17 years ago (1996) and focuses on exactly this level of interaction with its customers. Its goal is to operate as an extension of the customers IT team and work proactively together for the overall success of the project. The Complete Care Managed Services (CCMS) that is available to all cloud server and dedicated server hosting clients provides all of the above: Proactive system reviews, system operational analysis, performance analysis (slow load pages, long running queries, optimization pointers, etc.), architectural guidance as needed – in addition to 24x7x365 monitoring with immediate alert response, 24x7x265 critical issue resolution, security solutions (VPN, firewall, ISP, etc.)

There may be other options too – I’m just not familiar with any. Before you decide who to partner with, I’d suggest picking up the phone and calling candidates. Chat a little with the person who answers the phone. Ask about the possibility of having a pre-sales architectural call to discuss your project and their solutions. Are you dealing with just a sales person or do they engage experienced architects to understand your concerns and needs?

I hope this helps you better understand the DevOps topic and some of the surrounding challenges (aka opportunities), and I hope it helps you make a good decision with selecting your hosting partners. Remember that group of people is going to be key to your success as a developer/manager/owner, so take the time up front and choose wisely.

Happy hosting!

Basic IIS Performance Statistics

There are some neat counters available in Windows Performance Monitor for showing some IIS (Internet Information Server) statistics. My three favorites are:

  1. Current Anonymous Users: This counter shows the number of current anonymous HTTP connections. Since most web sites serve content to anonymous users, it’s the one that seems to make the most sense to me when trying to gauge current traffic / activity on the site.
  2. Anonymous Users / Second: This counter shows the data above, but how many connections per second those site visitors are generating.
  3. Maximum Anonymous Users: This counter just show the peak number of anonymous users that were connected at a single time. Sometimes it’s neat to see where the site activity peaked.

How do you see these? Here are the steps and screenshots:

First find the Performance Monitor by clicking the Start Menu then Administrative Tools then Performance Monitor:

Find PerfMon

 

Then click on Performance Monitor in the left-hand pane under Monitoring Tools. After that you are presented with the graph window and you can click the green plus icon to add counters to this window (play around and different counters – there is a LOT of really neat information available).

PerfMonIISCounters2

After clicking the green plus icon, you are presented with a huge list of counter groups. Within each of those groups are individual counters. There are a ton – you really do need to just play around and check out the options.

For web (IIS) counters though, look for the group named Web Service and click the plus sign next to it to expand and show the individual counters.

PerfMonIISCounters3

After you add the counters you’ll see them listed at the bottom of the graph window, along with the color of each counter so you can match them easily.

PerfMonIISCounters4

There you go. Play around and have some fun checking out what type of traffic is hitting your site and how well the server is performing.

Happy hosting!